Barnoldswick to Slaithwaite
There seems to be a general disbelief that mobile phones really work in Yorkshire and Lancashire – how else to explain the fact that everyone using one in the street talks at maximum volume. This was particularly the case early in the morning outside my bedroom.
So, I got up, spent some time on bike maintenance, had some breakfast and then left shortly after 9am for the day’s ride. I was looking forward to the first 15 miles that was predicted to be generally flat and following the route of the Leeds Liverpool canal.
Quickly joined the canal tow path but after about 3.5 miles the signposted route leaves the canal and follows an apparently pointless route through industrial estates and wastelands before rejoining the canal after 6 miles. With hindsight, I find I left the route accidently at one point and that there is an alternative NCN 68 which, after missing out a canal tunnel, follows the canal for most of the route. I’d recommend taking this alternative.
Through Colne and then Burnley following the tarmacked canal tow path. This could have been interesting but the tarmac seemed to have been laid by someone who’d had far too much to drink and was like riding across a ploughed field.
At 12.5 miles in Burnley, the route leaves the canal and after a section through the town, enters Towneley Park where the day’s ride completely changes. The park is lovely although the advertised park cafe was impossible to find (I think it’s closed?). Coffee was taken in the Towneley garden centre (average quality).
After coffee, the climbing started and was soon up to 1450ft after 21 miles on the route to Hebden Bridge. Along the way I passed from Lancashire into Yorkshire where there is a commemorative milestone (19 miles). More lovely views but busier roads than in Northumberland.
At 20 miles I decided to take a diversion to visit Bridestones Moor which has various unusual rock formations. This diversion was probably a mistake! The ground is very much only suitable for walkers (maybe mountain bikes) and, to regain the road, I had to lift my bike and luggage over a high stile – bikes are probably not allowed on the moor. Some good views though.
Regaining the main road, I continued until meeting an alternative NCN 68 section where I backtracked slightly to the north before leaving the route to visit Hardcastle Crags (26 miles). This required a walk down a steep path and steps pushing my bike at which point I slightly twisted my ankle. Thinking that could be the end of the ride, I decided to press on and keep the ankle moving. It turned out to not be too bad with it stiffening up when I stopped but never got so bad as to stop me cycling.
After the steps, the route into Hardcastle Crags follows a steepish downhill on old tracks to Gibson Mill at the valley bottom. The downhill was okay on my gravel bike but a road bike would not be suitable (however this isn’t NCN 68!).
The Mill looked nice (a cafe but I didn’t try it) and I then proceeded down the main entry track towards Hebden Bridge where NCN 68 was rejoined (29.5 miles).
Hebden Bridge is northern hipster central. The town centre will full of people sitting out in the sun with loads of cafes, take-aways and pubs catering to the visitors. A nice place to stop for lunch (which I did – pastie followed by another milkshake).
After a short section alongside the Rochdale canal, the next town on the journey is Sowerby Bridge. The canal towpath runs directly there (on the flat, NCN 66) but the sadistic planners at Sustrans HQ have decided that NCN 68 has to climb another hill before descending into Sowerby Bridge! Still nice views though.
Not much to detain you at Sowerby Bridge but there is then another stupid climb out of the town (15% gradient) up Boggart Lane. Another pushing (and swearing) section.
At around 40 miles, the M62 motorway came into view. The motorway is crossed via a long, dark tunnel which seems to be formed of a huge pipe. At this point I met a local stereotypical “stabby” type person with a “stabby” type of dog. Not really the right place to find yourself being robbed. Luckily he wasn’t like the stereotype and we exchanged greetings (“alright”) without any issues.
Throughout the ride I encountered many fewer cyclists doing the same trip than I expected. Around here I passed a guy on a mountain bike who was obviously camping along the way as he had brought along all the camping gear him and all his friends must own. His bike was ridiculously loaded down and he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself. I offered a greeting when I passed him but he wasn’t having any it! I think I had a much better trip than he did so it might be worth seeking out his notes (if indeed he made the trip) for alternative views. Later in the day, I’d finished the ride, wandered around the town, found a good pub, ordered my beer and had drunk half of it when I saw him again passing through and looking no happier as he struggled onto his camping site.
Once past the M62 there was time for more climbing before a long drop into Slaithwaite where I explored before visiting the Commercial Hotel pub by the canal in the centre of the town. Recommended pub with a fine selection of keenly priced beers including a couple of their own at around £2 per pint.
Found my accommodation for the night which was an AirBnB room in a house. The hosts actually have a single and double room that they let out and, as no-one was in the double, they upgraded me. The experience was exceptional. Nothing to find fault with. They let me park my bike in their hallway! Everything you could possibly want in the room (en suite) which was also large. The only possible downside was that it was near the station so some train noise. Highly recommended.
After a tour of the town, I visited the Monsoon Indian restaurant for evening meal – completely empty except for me – and then returned to the Commercial Hotel to watch the Aston Villa v West Brom Championship play off. As this went to extra time and penalties, I was late to bed!
Slaithwaite is (according to Wikipedia so you can trust the information) the only village with a canal (the Huddersfield Narrow) running alongside the main street. Apparently Slaithwaite is not pronounced as you would expect – there seems to be some debate as to how it should be said but agreement that “Slay-th-wate” is wrong. “Slowit” seems a common approach.